Once again, something stinks in Montgomery County.
The deputy police chief of the Miami Twp. Police Department, Maj. John DiPietro, who is normally their PR go to guy- who obviously should know better, took it upon himself to “decontaminate” a 17 year old girl who had been pepper sprayed after shoplifting. He did this by having her strip naked and stand there while he hosed her off with water. This was captured on video, in the “Sallyport” of the police station. He didn’t have a female officer come to help.
I posted this as a trial balloon on Facebook before writing this. I watched in disbelief while some tried to defend his actions- by blaming the girl for shoplifting, for running from police, for being pepper sprayed, for the possibility that there were no female officers available to do the hosing down, to this is acceptable behavior. I also heard WTF and that this has no place in modern America (thankfully I have some smart friends).
What’s most amazing is that an investigation has been underway for a while- this happened in July. The Dayton Daily and Channel 7 have been investigating since Sept. It has appeared in several articles and yet people in the community were still unaware of this transgression of basic rights.
Excuses, once again are being made by the prosecutors office and no public official has stepped up to question why this happened. Our County Commissioners are mute. The County Administrator as well as the Miami Township trustees- nothing.
So am I the only one who thinks that besides a full investigation, Maj DiPietro should be on unpaid leave and facing dismissal?
First, let’s look at when pepper spray is supposed to be used with a suspect:
the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals set a new precedent for the use of pepper spray.
“The 9th Circuit held that the use of pepper spray must be justified in the same way that tazers are used. That standard is very high,” Deputy Ed Obayashi of the Merced County Sheriff’s Office said.
Obayashi is a subject matter expert for Peace Officers Standards and Training, better known as POST. He says the August 26th (2011) court ruling stated officers must face an immediate threat in order to use pepper spray.
That’s different than how they’ve typically been trained.
“If the deputies or officers had to go hands on with an uncooperative suspect that justified the use of a tazer or pepper spray, and that is simply no longer the case under 9th circuit law,” he said.
I’ve yet to see proof in any of the articles that the use of pepper spray was warranted. This was an arrest for shoplifting, not armed robbery or assault. If a police officer is having problems with a 17 year old girl, he has the option of calling on other police officers.
Next up- where do you spray the pepper spray? I’m assuming the suspect was clothed. How do her exposed genitals get covered by pepper spray? Do we pull her pants down and spray it in her crotch?
Assuming the girl was pepper sprayed in the field- pepper spray continues to have effect for 45 minutes or so. The real question is what is the proper procedure for police after spraying a suspect with pepper spray? If there isn’t one in writing- the officers shouldn’t be using it. Considering it takes time to transport the suspect- shouldn’t the fact that she was a female been communicated to command, to prepare for decontamination?
But, here is the cincher:
Water can be used to soothe the affected area, however since pepper spray is oil based and designed to stick to the skin, water by itself will not offer much comfort unless utilized continuously for approximately 30 minutes or more.
The whole reason pepper spray is considered effective is that it doesn’t just wash off with water. In fact, scrubbing does more harm and large amounts of water are totally ineffective. DiPietro’s actions weren’t what any proper guideline would call for- and if he indeed was standing there, hosing a naked teen off for 30 minutes- where and why were any other witnesses concerned with the fact that this girl wasn’t given some non-pepper sprayed clothes to wear? Or- transported to a facility that could do proper decontamination?
Nothing about this incident makes any sense to me, nor does it appear legal or justifiable.
Do we have rogue cops carrying and using pepper spray without proper training and procedures? Why wasn’t a female tasked with the ineffective decontamination? Why was pepper spray used in the first place- considering it is potentially lethal? Are a few stolen items from a second hand store really a danger to society?
Chemical weapons aren’t to be taken lightly, legal or not. International laws were put in effect soon after WW1 to ban them for good reason. Pepper spray is a chemical weapon- that often, elevates the danger in a situation rather than defusing it.
For all the reasons above, I believe we need to take a closer look at what we consider acceptable behavior and use of force by the people who are supposed to protect us- because when the law fails one of us, it will fail all of us in the long run.